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Olympic medalist Norman Dello Joio; Hunter Harrison, an owner and supporter of US show jumping; three-time Olympic medalist Authentic; and puissance record-holder Sympatico were officially inducted in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame during the annual induction ceremony held at the Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania on May 31.
Peter Doubleday, Chairman of the Board of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and Museum Inc, formally inducted the four new members into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. Each Hall of Famer was presented with a beautiful, specially inscribed Tiffany crystal bowl to commemorate the occasion. Accepting the award on behalf of Sympatico was Sally Edelman Slater, Sympatico’s original rider, and her brother, Sam Edelman, who co-owned the horse with Sally.
A Starry-Eyed Girl
In 1973, I was a 12-year-old horse-crazy girl. I remember a few of us from the barn went to Madison Square Garden that year to watch the Puissance class. This class, in its heyday, pitted Americans and International riders, as well as so-called Puissance specialists, against each other in a test of height over a large stonewall made of wooden blocks painted with a red brick pattern. On top was a small semicircle of green indoor carpeting that made it look like a soft moss had topped this gigantic wall. There were only a few fences in this class; each round, one was removed until only an optional warm-up fence and the Puissance wall remained.
According to The New York Times coverage of the event, held on November 1, 1973, Sympatico, ridden by 19-year-old Anthony D’Ambrosio, was up against 18 entries in this class. A dozen horses made it into the next round, and finally, four were attempting the 7-foot-4-inch massive vertical jump. A crowd of 9,500, including me, all held our collective breath as the 8-year-old bay gelding from Alligator Farm in Ridgefield, “eked through to victory, his hind hooves touching but not knocking down the top blocks of the stone wall,” according to The Times. In fact, among the other three competitors looking to win in that final jump off was the Grand Prix master Idle Dice, ridden by Rodney Jenkins, who tapped the blocks off the wall with his front feet in his effort. It was this amazingly exciting display of horse sport that encouraged me to jump ever higher as a kid. I wanted to sail over walls just like the Puissance riders and horses. When Sympatico landed, the Garden erupted in screams and applause. He had just made the National Horse Show Puissance record. Sympatico was on his way to Hall of Fame glory.
A veteran of the 1976 Olympics and 1978 World Championships, Sympatico is best known for his show record in the Puissance. Sired by The Hammer out of a Black Gang mare, Sympatico was in training as a timber horse when purchased as a 3-year-old by the Edelmans’ Alligator Farms in Connecticut out of a field in Upperville, VA. Sally Edelman showed the 17.1h, bay, Thoroughbred gelding sparingly as an equitation horse and junior hunter before starting the 6-year-old on the A circuit as a junior jumper in 1971, while riding out of Carl Knee’s Rock Bottom Farm. She went on to show him in the Preliminary and Intermediate Jumper divisions, where he quickly won enough that he was qualified to move up to the Open Jumpers. Through that entire time, Sally was the only one to ride and show him. She also showed him in the Amateur Jumper division with great success.
Sympatico moved up to the open division with Anthony D’Ambrosio in 1972, and the duo claimed a second-place finish in the Cleveland Grand Prix, a fourth in the Grand Prix of Los Angeles, a win in the Orange Coast Grand Prix in California, and four wins at the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden. His record-setting career as a Puissance horse began in 1973, when he won the Puissance at the National Horse Show with a height of 7 feet 4 inches. The next year, he won the Puissance at the Washington International Horse Show at 7 feet 1 inch and the Grand Prix at Hamilton (Ontario), while placing second in the American Show Jumping Championships and Grand Prix of Toronto and third in the American Gold Cup.
Wins the following year at Washington and New York, as well as in the Grand Prix at Hornby (Ontario), led to his sale to Samson Farms of Canada and new success as a team horse for Canada. In 1976, Canadian Jim Day rode him to Grand Prix wins at Aurora (Ontario) and Toronto, and he won three classes at the Royal Winter Fair, including the Puissance, in which he cleared 7 feet 2 inches. His 1976 season was highlighted by his selection to the Canadian team for the Montreal Olympics, where he led the team to a fifth-place finish.
At the end of 1977, he was purchased by Canadian rider Terry Leibel, who teamed with him to win the Grand Prix of Florida in their first start together and also the Grand Prix of Rotterdam during 1978, a year that saw them help Canada to a fourth place finish in the World Championships at Aachen.
The Show Jumping Hall of Fame is located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. Plaques honoring those who have been honored with induction into the Hall of Fame can be seen at the Horse Park’s Rolex Stadium. Further information about the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, including the plaques of all previous inductees, is available at www.showjumpinghalloffame.net.